Game 5 win another sign of Angels' resiliencyIf Thursday was the last time the Angels fans would see their team, what a finale they got.
For one more night, the Angels battled like they have all season. Â And their 7-6 victory in Game 5 not only sent the ALCS back to New York, it gave their fans another memory to carry in this unforgettable season.
It also added another twist to a series that has been nothing short of dramatic.Â Just ask Torii Hunter, who walked in relaxed after what he called one of most thrilling games of his career.
â€œThe other day, the one we played, 11 innings or something like that [Game 3, a 11-inning comeback thriller the Angels won on Monday], that was number one,â€ he said.Â â€œThis is number two.â€
Nine outs away from elimination. A stadium in shock after watching the Yankees explode for six runs. And a dugout in anger, with Hunter slamming his glove upon returning, yet knowing they had a chance to return fire.
Â â€œGuys in between innings were still pumped up,â€ Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, â€œThey knew weâ€™d get a guy on. We had the tying run at the plate and just some real good hitting with guys in scoring position.
5-for-13 to be exact. It was timely hitting at a time when they needed it more than ever. One more chance for this group to prove why they had the best offense in team history.
They showed it with four runs on Yankee starter AJ Burnettâ€™s first 11 pitches with the first five batters all reaching base. Â And they did it with their backs against the wall in the seventh, trailing 6-4 and calling upon the Rally Monkey for help.
It started with small ball. A Jeff Mathis single and Erick Aybar walk, followed by a sacrifice bunt by Chone Figgins. Then a groundout by Bobby Abreu made it 6-5. After Hunter walked, Vladimir Guerrero crushed a single to center field to bring home Aybar for the tie.
Kendry Morales made the rally complete with a single to drive in Hunter for the go-ahead run.
On the mound, John Lackey was every bit as workhorse as they needed. He cruised through the first six innings on four-hit ball with a postseason career high seven strikeouts.Â They needed a bulldog and he came through.
Lackey struggled in the seventh before the Yankee floodgates opened. He begged not to come out â€“ telling Scioscia â€œThis is mineâ€ several times before walking back to the dugout to a standing ovation. The normally reliable Darren Oliver came in and promptly gave up a three-run double to start the six-run rally.
But Jered Weaver, making his second career relief appearance, made sure the eighth was a different story, striking out two batters to send Angel Stadium in a frenzy. Everyone played their role and made sure that there would be no champagne on the Angelsâ€™ field.
â€œOur backs are against the wall, man,â€ Hunter said, â€œWeâ€™re just kicking, punching, scratching, doing whatever weâ€™ve got to do to get off the wall.â€
The Yankees didnâ€™t go down without drama. After two quick outs on closer Brian Fuentes in the ningth, Alex Rodriguez was intentionally walked â€“ a reminder of the twoâ€™s last meeting in Game 2 where A-Rod sent a pitch into the first row over right field.
Fuentes walked Hideki Matsui and then hit Robinson Cano with a pitch to load the bases. But with a nervous stadium praying for a hold, he got Nick Swisher to pop up to Aybar to end the game.
Resilience has been their hallmark all year. It described them after they battled through the death of teammate Nick Adenhart. It described them as they pulled away from a tight division race for the sixth AL West crown in ten years.
And Thursday night, the Angel Stadium crowd saw once again why. Win two games in New York? It wouldnâ€™t surprise these fans or the players.
â€œAnythingâ€™s possible, man,â€ Hunter said, smiling with relief. â€œBaseball is a crazy game. Weâ€™re just going to take it one game at a time and be ready to go.â€